You know there is some rapid development going on when you did this last week and it’s old news already – but for surprising reasons.

So I’m finally taking a design course. For this and other constructive reasons such as my gig I am very tired in the evenings lately. Let me tell you a bit about beginner problems that could unknowingly affect you, too, with a couple of pieces I did.

First of all, you are looking at sketches I did on the topic “design sketching”. My first mistake was that I only this week learned what design actually is – and what design principles are. Last week I did not even know I did not know this, so I actually had no chance to do my homework as it was intended to.

What am I talking about? In the following you will find pages of gorgeous nature studies. The problem is, it is not and should never have been about the rendering or art skill itself.

Designing is uncovering the internal patterns and functionings of the world and conveying them to the viewers or users in an understandable and appealing way. You have to dive deep into how the world works or fictional world would work you are working with to be believable and you also have to know a lot about the human psyche to know how to win your audience over. It is human viewers after all that you are designing for and you yourself are one, too.

Here my study group intervened. They sensed I was putting my focus into the painting and not exploring design principles, but couldn’t articulate what exactly was off. So a classical misunderstanding happened. I got the feedback I should scale back and just do linework because this exercise is about lines. No, it is not. It is just another way to create art. Design doesn’t care whether you employ lines or not as long as you are minding the design principles and your set design goals. I had none of this. Plus, I was more insecure then and that was to the detriment of the quality of my work for the rest of the week.

I had incredible luck with the carriers, though. This page itself is not so remarkable except for that is the first time I ever explored the topic. I was lucky as this sheet cought the eye of a more experienced concept artist. He seemed to know without words in what deep trouble I was and recommended me the Visual Design Basics course by Alex Senechal. My natural curiosity kicked in and I indeed bought the course and started listening on Monday. I feel unstoppable since. I’m climbing quite the steep and lonely mountain now though. Actually developing your own design sense is quite the undertaking.

If I had the time, I would redo this whole exercise with a few simple but very impactful changes. Instead of recreating the given references from the course I would first sit down and make sure I know what I’m doing and why. Design does not start with action, design starts with planning and planning starts with an intent. One possibility that I can see would be a topic such as exploring the 70:30 distribution rule and evenness of proportions or exploring patterns of nature with a very narrow range of subjects such as plants of the same type, but with small variations – so that these count. These must count.

Funny enough my insect and bird eggs go into this direction already. That was the sheet that was not commanded as official homework of my study group. I came up with that myself after watching Feng Zhu talking about less is more for design beginners. I thought to myself drawing eggs instead of full creatures must fall under this. I almost got it right.

Me and my group will continue to make mistakes. That is part of the human nature. I beg of myself to be more confident and listen to my intuition, but also keep listening to critique and giving it to others. We are all in this together.